Lots to like

Lawrence and Kansas University don’t need to change, but our image in the Kansas Legislature needs some work.

January 9, 2011


Being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

State Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, struck a nerve on Wednesday when he told a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce gathering that “KU and Lawrence are not very well respected” in the Kansas Legislature because they are viewed as too liberal.

Brown’s comment really should come as no surprise to Lawrence and Kansas University officials, but that doesn’t mean that they should take such abuse lying down.

Exactly how different Lawrence is from the rest of the state is open to debate but many of the differences people could cite about our city are decidedly positive, not negative. We have a vital community that always draws high marks for its quality of life. Large numbers of retirees who no longer are tied to jobs in other cities and can live anywhere they want choose to return to Lawrence because of its ambiance, its location close to a metropolitan area and, often most importantly, because it is the home to a major teaching and research university.

KU is a primary factor in what sets Lawrence apart from many Kansas communities — in a good way. It draws many highly educated people to Lawrence and enjoys a strong national reputation. It is the only university in Kansas to be ranked by the Fiske Guide to Colleges and to hold membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

University activities add tremendously to the artistic, athletic and cultural offerings in Lawrence. The research and teaching done at KU benefits Kansas students, Kansas business, Kansas health care and many other facets of the state.

With all that Lawrence and the university have to offer to local residents as well as to people across the state, why would it have “a bad reputation” in the Kansas Legislature?

Maybe they just need to get to know us a little better.

The sad truth is that Brown’s statement is correct; many legislators do think Lawrence is too liberal or too different and he’s not wrong when he says that perception “needs to change.” But it won’t change if Lawrence and KU let statements like Brown’s go unchallenged. Lawrence and KU need to do a better job of telling their stories!

They need to meet with legislators and other state leaders, talk to them one on one about what KU and Lawrence have to offer. They should go into the conversation armed with facts and anecdotal evidence — not with a chip on their shoulders or an arrogant attitude. Legislators and other leaders need to understand that the people in Lawrence and Douglas County aren’t really so different from people in the rest of the state (many people who live in Lawrence grew up in other parts of the state) — and that whatever differences we have should be viewed as a potential benefit for the state, rather than qualifying us to be locked in the attic (How many elected and appointed state officials actually choose to live here and commute to Topeka?).

Rather than be angry about Brown’s comments, KU and Lawrence should take them as a challenge. There is plenty that state officials should like about Lawrence. Let’s tell them all about it.


Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month ago

"Lawrence and KU need to do a better job of telling their stories!" Nonsense. A deluded perception is a deluded perception. The delusional need to change, not us by telling a "better story."

xclusive85 7 years, 1 month ago

They should go into the conversation armed with facts and anecdotal evidence — not with a chip on their shoulders or an arrogant attitude.

This seems to suit you perfectly.

Tim Quest 7 years, 1 month ago

The name of the school is The University of Kansas. I'm surprised you didn't know that, Dolphie.

Kookamooka 7 years, 1 month ago

Sadly, when people talk negatively about anything, it throws mud on the place. We are different and I'm proud that we are. The unfortunate fact is...the nail that stick ups gets smashed down. We have so much to be thankful for here in Lawrence. There has been a republican presence in town for many years dedicated to changing Lawrence into another red city. Most of the power players in town are republican. It won't be long before Lawrence is more red than blue. That's when I'm packing up the kids and heading to Vermont.

Jill Lee 7 years, 1 month ago

Wow-KU needs to do a better job of telling its' story? I agree, but the Lawrence Journal World has to be the most anti-KU voice there is. We expect the LJW to report the news fairly and accurately, but you rip KU almost every chance you get in editorials. You started on Chancellor Gray Little almost before she even got unpacked. Now-if the LJW worried as much about their editorial content as they worry about KU and its' story, that would really be something. As columnist Murray Kempton once said, "Editorial writers are those who come down out of the hills after the battle and shoot the wounded." I think of that quote every time you start in again on KU. It would be hard to believe that there is a less supportive university town local paper anywhere in America than LJW.

Ann Gardner 7 years, 1 month ago

Sorry not to reply on this sooner, but better late than never. Editorials aren't signed by an individual because they represent the opinion of the newspaper, not the writer's personal opinion. Editorials are composite opinions that meld ideas and often actual writing from more than one person. Hope that helps.

Gareth Skarka 7 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence has been viewed as "too liberal" by the rest of the area ever since it was founded by Free Staters from New England.

I don't see this as a problem.

Doug Fisher 7 years, 1 month ago

Oh please! I laugh at the notion Lawrence is "too liberal". Sure it was during the racial conflict/ Vietnam protests of the 60's and 70's but most of us (myself included) weren't around for that. To most Kansans, Lawrence still is "liberal" when you realize this states politics have shifted significantly to the right over the last 15-30 years. In reality, Lawrence's politics are also shifting to the right as more Republicans move in the newer west side of town. That over time has diluted the city's predominately progressive thinking. It's moderate but not liberal like everyone makes it out to be. Come to Eugene, OR or Berkley if you want to see "too liberal".

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